's 2013 Horror Write-off:

"The Amundsen-Scott Incident"

Submitted by Irene Vallone

Winter Journal, Day 12

    I said I wasn't going to write in this thing.  I was never really one for diaries.  My wife gave it to me before I left, and said that she was going to start one too.  It would help us cope with one another's absence, she said.  I guess she knew I would need it.  Right as always, Diane.

    I didn't write anything during the summer season.  Too busy, I guess.  Always working.  There'll be less to do over the winter, I'm told.  We just keep the place up and running, until the next summer season.  I'll write during the off-time.

    The reason I started writing, is... they had the annual double feature, a few nights ago.  It's a tradition here.  After all the staff who aren't wintering here leave, they watch The Thing and The Shining, back to back.  I watched with them, and I couldn't sleep.  I had nightmares.  I felt like a child, being so scared of movies like that.

    So, I had to start writing, really.  There's no one here I feel like I can talk to about this.  All my good friends left for the winter.  There's only a few dozen people here now, and I don't really know any of them that well.

    I miss my wife already... but dwelling on that will only make the winter seem longer.   

Winter Journal, Day 20

    Remembering to write is going to be a challenge, I can tell already.

    Because it wasn't challenging enough, living in Antarctica in winter, right?

    Getting a regular schedule of sleep is even difficult, when the night lasts six months.  Really great for when you've been having nightmares, by the way.

    I can't even get any research done.  I've been monitoring the climate for the past eleven days, as part of a study on climate change.  Monday: cold.  Tuesday: cold.  Wednesday: cold.  And so on.

    On the plus side, we saw some penguins outside today.  That's a first.  They usually don't come inland this far.  Some of us were joking about going outside and playing with the penguins, but that senior scientist - Joseph?  Johnston?  Something with a J.  I'll call him Johnston - gave us a talk about how dangerous that would be.  I never liked Johnston.  No sense of humor.

Winter Journal, Day 27

    Still cold.  No change there.

    A penguin got into the station the other day.  Some of the support staff panicked and had us all go check every inch of the station for an unlocked door or broken wall panel that a penguin could have gotten in through, to make sure we wouldn't all freeze to death.  We didn't find anything.

    One of the other scientists - Winstead - tried to convince everyone that we should keep it.  Johnston shot that idea down.  He said that we don't have the proper environment to care for a penguin.

    We let it go outside.  I watched it for a while.  It wandered around, not going anywhere in particular, for about fifteen minutes.  I stopped watching after that.

Day 35

    I'm noticing something about the weather.  It's still cold, obviously, and it has been since the winter started... and it keeps getting colder.  The temperature has gone down an average of 0.7 degrees Celsius every day.  It's currently 47 below.  Probably not indicative of anything major.  Just things getting worse.

    The penguin got back in today.  No one knows how.  The support staff sent us on a hunt for breaches again.  Still nothing.

    It walked up to me while I was checking a door.  It got within a foot of me and cocked its head, like it was wondering what I was doing.  I had to wonder what it thought of the station, and of humans.  It had probably never seen humans before.

    We got it back outside again.  Winstead didn't help us.  I think he was serious about keeping it the other day.

    My nightmares are beginning to go away.

Day 45

    Temperature continues to drop steadily.  57 below 0 today.

    The penguin got in again.  The staff have had varying reactions.  Obviously if a wild animal keeps getting in then there must be a breach, but it's only a penguin so how much harm can it do, and on, and on.

    Johnston has given up at this point.  The penguin comes and goes as it pleases.  Winstead is in love with the thing.  He follows it around the station, feeds it, tries to play with it sometimes.  He's named it Topper.  I can go with that.

    Some of the scientists are really confused by Topper.  One of them - I think his name is Blackwell - said that its plumage doesn't match any known species, and that penguins usually don't come this far inland.  Maybe we've found a new species.

    Some people are even scared of it.  I think the isolation's getting to them. 
It's just a penguin.

    My nightmares have totally cleared up.  I'm glad.  I can sleep easy now.

Day 50

    Everyone's warming up to this penguin now.

    (Ha ha.  Warming up.  If only.  It's only getting colder.)

    (61 below 0.)

    Even Johnston cracks a smile now and then when Topper comes up to him.

    Winstead's been getting a little weird, though.  Some of the scientists want to do some tests.  Check that this penguin really is a new species.  Winstead won't let them.  It's like he's a mother, and the penguin's his baby, or something.  It's kind of cute.

    I wonder what Topper thinks about all this.

Day 60

    Winstead disappeared.

    Everyone's frightened.

    There are footprints leading away from the station.  Why would he run away?  There are no other humans for miles.

    Johnston and a few personnel took a snowcat out to look for him.  Johnston said that the sooner they go, the better the chance they'll find Winstead alive.  They'll be back as soon as they can.

    Topper doesn't seem sad about Winstead's disappearance.  Can penguins be sad?  Sometimes I wonder.  They look so much like little people, sometimes I wonder if they think like people too.

    Probably not.  They're just birds, after all.  But... maybe.

    I hope Winstead is okay.  We weren't good friends, but he was alright.

Day 67

    Winstead still isn't back.

    Neither are Johnston and the personnel he took with him.

    I bet Topper's going to miss Winstead.  They were like two peas in a pod.

    Another penguin got in today.  He looks just like Topper.  Now he has a friend.

Day 75

    Some more scientists and staff have been disappearing.

    I'm sure they're okay.  The penguins will take care of them.  They've taken care of me.  They're so nice.

Day 81

    I realized I've been forgetting to take climate measurements.

    83 below 0 today.

    I'm getting tired of the staff.  Running around in a panic all the time.  I'm sure Winstead and Johnston and the rest are okay.  I'm sure they're all having a grand old time.  I know I am.

    My dreams are better than ever now.  I can remember them clearly when I wake up.  They always have penguins in them.

Day 90

    It hit 100 below a few days ago.  It stayed there.

    There are more penguins now.  Eight?  Ten?  It's hard to count them.  They all move around.

    I'm glad I can understand them when they talk to each other now.  I felt a little left out.

Day 100

    Still 100 below.

    I haven't seen any of the support staff in a few days.

    Or any of the scientists either.

    A few days?  How many days?  I can't remember.

    That's okay.  I have new friends now.

Day 111

    Still 100 below.

    I found a photo in my pocket today.  It was of me, and someone else.  It was my


    I can't remember the word.

    I didn't remember who it was, either.

    I asked Topper what he thought.  He told me to forget the whole thing.  I trust him.

    There are more penguins every day now.  More and more.

Day 126

    Still 100 below.

    I forgot my name today.  It was just on the tip of my tongue.  Slipped right off.

    I asked Topper for a new name.  He just honked at me.  I didn't understand.  I cried for a while, but then I went to sleep.  I felt better when I woke up.

Day 144

    Still 100 below.

    I've started naming the other penguins.

    I think this tall one looks like a Winstead.

Day 156

    Still 100 below.

    Blackwell came by where I work today.  I couldn't say which Blackwell.

    We had a nice conversation. Or at least I did.

Day 164

    Still 100 below.

    I studied climate change.  Global warming.

    What a joke. 

    Nothing ever gets warmer.

    Who would want that?

Day 202

    I forgot to measure the temperature today.  I hope it's still cold.

    I lost a toe today.  It didn't hurt.  I gave it to Johnston.  He always wanted it anyway.

Day 267

    Too many days.  Too many days have gone by.

    Sometimes I miss Blackwell, and Winstead and the rest.  Even Johnston.  The humans.  Not the penguins.  The penguins are here.  Still here.

    They keep me company.  We talk.  They're my family now.  I love them.

    That's all for now.  Diane wants to talk to me about something.   

day 365

    has it really been a year?

    that doesn't seem right...  I might have counted wrong

    but i hope not

    first year with the penguins

    here's to many more

day 445

    i think its my birthday?

    i wish we had a cake

    you can't have everything you want

    topper told me so

day 496

    everyone lets go build a snowman

    lets make snow angels



    not much food left

    none for me anyway

    give it to the penguins


    pick my bones clean penguins

    i love you

    let me be part of you

    i love you

    i love you all


Memo for Dr. Livingstone
From: David T. Potts
Subject: The Amundsen-Scott Incident

Sir, we've completed our initial investigation, and there are some things you should know.

The summer-season crew who discovered Dr. Dahle's body claimed to have seen him alive at the end of last year's summer season, but tests on the body confirm that he died over three years ago.  Of exposure, evidently, and not starvation.

We were unable to locate any of the other members of the winter-season crew, so at least that part of his journal can be verified.  We were unable to find any bodies, however.  Or any penguins, for that matter.

I recommend further investigation.